Yes, we made it !
Arrived here today after a 6 hours drive from Daman. Since my last blog we have been to some fantastic places...... In Udaipur we each did our own thing for a day and I took a rickshaw up to see the Monsoon Palace. Perched on top of a hill high above the city it was deserted for many years (and used as a hideout for dacoits) until the James Bond movie Octopussy when scenes were shot there and it was renovated somewhat. Leopards still up in the hills round about. Later I wandered round the City palace which was very interesting and huge. The ruling family in Udaipur are one of the oldest noble families in India, and they moved their capital here after the Moghuls repeatedly invaded their previous fortress at Chitaugarh. In the evening there was a huge festival in the town which some of us went to. We got covered in bright pink powder which was being thrown liberally over all and sundry. Gods on small palaquins were being paraded around town and being taken to the lakeside for a wash, before being taken back to their respective temples. The noise, heat, insense, and music were tremendous and in one of the squares there were fire-dancers twirling flaming battons, breathing fire, and leaping through burning hoops. Real India and fantastic atmosphere!
We then drove to Chitaugarh where there is probably the largest castle I have ever seen. It completely encompasses a huge hilltop plateau. Just the idea of building it seems incredible. It encloses 700 acres and would have been absolutely impregnible. How they managed to defeat the incubent army I failed to find out (must read up on it at home). We spent a great time looking around, and drove round the inside perimeter. Stopped to get out and climb up onto the outer wall and as we did so a troupe of about 70 or 80 Langur monkeys arrived. A large male got up onto the roof of the Landcruiser. Went to the top of the 'Victory Tower' - 9 storeys high and required a rock climb to get onto the top storey. We continued to Bijapur Palace Hotel out in remote countryside. Beautiful old fortress being slowly converted, tastefully, into a stunning hotel. The Raja owner, who knows Prince Charles, and had Peter Cook stay there once, showed us around. He runs riding safaris and has 9 gorgeous horses. Set in rolling hills and delightful countryside.
Frome here we moved on again to Dungapur and to my mind this was the nicest place of all the fabulous Rajasthan towns we had been to. We again stayed in a converted palace which eclipsed everywhere we had seen so far. The palace sits on the edge of a large lake, surrounded by pointed, wooded hills and exuded wealth and influence. Sitting off from the palace,, and seeming to float on the water, was a pretty temple. The priest rowed out each morning. There was a large aviary with large and small birds, including Emus, turkeys, and all manner of exotic colourful winged creatures. There were 7 or 8 dogs including boistrous Great Danes, a Boxer and some Labradors. The swimming pool 'disappeared' into the lake and was completely beautiful with two stone elephants spouting water and its own 'temple' changing room. Again the owner (not sure whether he was a Maharaja or not) showed us around - in his garages was a collection of classic English and American cars and wheeled cannon, old carriages and furniture in enormous heaps rescued from his old palace up on the hill. We ate in an open courtyard which had a dining table that must be unique - it is marble with inlaid semi-precious stones and is rectangular and must be 40 feet long. In the centre is a long pool whose water comes perfectly up to the edge of the marble surround. Amazing engineering achievment, fascinating, and to top it all the water produces a strange optical illusion - wherever you sit at the table the patterns on the bottom of the pool make it look like it is deep where you are sitting but shallow everywhere else. The large family dining room is a veritable hunting trophy room, with heads of tigers, bears, deer and wild boar. Our rooms were delightful. We had a day's rest at this quintessential place and in the evening took a ride down the lake towards the town. As sheer luck would have it we had coincided with the last day of a festival in honour of Ganesh. Large Ganesh efigies were being brought down to the lake, put on rafts, taken out onto the lake, and then sunk to the bottom. There was a huge crowd on the shore and a noisy firework display which frightened scores of large fruit bats that flew past us The scene was Draculainan (?) The heat of the day had exhausted the marble clouds which stood still thinly veiling a full moon. Indian music drifted across and I felt that in this place I had found a perfect piece of India.
We then suffered a 13 hour drive to Daman on horrible roads ending in the dark and torrential rain. By the way did I say Dave had a slight argument with a bus and 'Silver' now has dents all down one side!
Must go I am late to meet the others for dinner.
Anyway we really have made it all the way from Wotton-u-Edge to Bombay - hasn't sunk in yet.......seems a year or two since we left....so many adventures....wouldn't have missed this for all the world!!!
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